Publicity and media guidance
A publicity and media campaign is a great way to promote your Road Safety Week and get important road safety messages across to a wider audience. Planning media and communications activities alongside your other educational and awareness-raising activities will help you put road safety in the spotlight and persuade people that road safety is a key issue for everyone.
- Choosing a theme and messages
- Developing campaign messages
- Preparing background information
- Conveying the horror of road crashes
- Developing creative visual content
- Engaging national and regional media
- Writing, issuing and selling in media releases
Choosing a theme and messages
When you start to plan your Road Safety Week and consider what topic you will focus on, think about what messages you could promote through media and publicity and to whom. It’s helpful for publicity purposes if you have a distinct theme and just one or two priority messages. Your theme will usually convey an aim or aspiration you’re trying to achieve to make roads safer and prevent casualties, such as ‘no more drink drive deaths’ or ‘let’s look out for each other on roads’. Your messages should get across the specific actions you’re asking people to do to make this happen, usually by taking simple steps to protect themselves and others on roads. For example, if your theme is about stopping drink drive deaths, your messages could be ‘never drive after drinking any alcohol’ and/or ‘plan ahead to get home safely’.
Developing campaign messages
Your campaign will be more powerful if your messages are specific, clear and instructional, avoiding anything vague that can be misunderstood or dismissed as irrelevant. It is common for people to under-estimate the dangers on roads and believe they are safe, and in particular for drivers to be overconfident, so your messages need to make clear what you’re asking people to do and that this applies to everyone. For example, simply telling drivers to ‘slow down’ may be dismissed by many drivers who believe they already drive slowly enough. Telling drivers to ‘stay under speed limits’ or ‘slow down to 20mph/30kmh in towns’ is harder to misinterpret or dismiss.
In developing your messages, it’s important to consider what different people’s responsibilities are, and the role they can play in preventing casualties, and particularly in protecting those more vulnerable. You might have different messages geared at different audiences, but it’s a good idea to emphasise the responsibilities of drivers in protecting people on foot and bicycle, and the responsibilities of adults in protecting children. Among road users, driving adults hold the greatest power to make roads safer, so it’s a good idea to have a main message that is aimed at drivers, although you might have secondary, related messages aimed at other audiences. For example, if your theme is about ‘safer streets for people’, your main message might be calling on drivers to stay within speed limits, but you might also remind families of the importance of holding children’s hands and looking and listening carefully before crossing roads. You might also have a message for employers, about making sure their company drivers are briefed to always stay within limits and put safety above speed.
You should also consider the way you phrase your messages to encourage people to listen to and engage with the campaign, and adhere to your messages. Using inclusive, positive, empowering and simple language is usually most effective. You need to ensure you’re understood and heeded, so avoid jargon or language that sounds like you’re telling off, lecturing or attacking anyone. Asking people to make a positive commitment to safer road use is usually more effective than saying ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’ because people usually find it easier to believe in doing something positive than to believe that something awful could happen. For example saying ‘pledge to slow down to 20mph/30km/h in towns to protect people’ is more empowering and positive than saying ‘don’t speed – you could kill someone’.
At the same time, your campaign will be more powerful and attention-grabbing if you get across the number of road crashes and casualties in your country or locality, and the loss of life, pain and suffering that results. It can be effective to talk about this alongside a positive message about how people have the power help stop these tragedies. See the section below on conveying the horror of road crashes.
To help you select a theme and messages, you could use Brake’s Pledge. It includes six key promises that people can make to protect themselves and others, each of which is ideal for using in a campaign. Each promise includes something drivers can do and something everyone can do, and is written in a clear and concise way that can be replicated or adapted for media and publicity. You can also make use of our Pledge resources.
For more ideas, browse the themes and messages Brake has used for its previous Road Safety Weeks in the UK, in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.
Preparing background information
As well as planning your main messages, it helps to have background information on your chosen theme to demonstrate why it’s an important issue and why people should listen. If you have (or can obtain) any new information that you can release during your Road Safety Week relating to your theme, such as survey results or other statistics, it will be very useful in gaining media coverage and getting people’s attention.
Conducting a survey and releasing the results at the start of your Week is a great way to gain coverage and raise awareness, and can be used to engage people in the run-up by getting them thinking about road safety. You could survey people directly on the street (make sure you get any necessary permissions from authorities), or via schools or employers (such as using ‘hands-up’ style surveys) or via a survey agency.
Your survey might aim to show the scale of a problem or people’s concerns or wishes, by looking at people’s attitudes, understanding or behaviour in relation to a particular road safety topic. For example if your theme is about distractions you could survey drivers on whether they use a phone at the wheel, and whether they think hands-free kits are dangerous (assessing behaviour and knowledge). Or if your theme is about making roads safer for walking and cycling you could survey children, families, pedestrians and/or cyclists about whether they feel local roads are safe and what they think should be done to make them safer (assessing attitudes). See examples of driver surveys carried out by Brake UK, and see examples of surveys released in Road Safety Week UK in 2013 and 2012. You could write up your survey results into a report, or a web page, as well as including them prominently in your press release (see below).
There are other facts and figures you may be able to gather and release in support of your campaign, including:
- Road casualty data – this may be published by your local or national authority, or you may be able to obtain it by request and publish it during your Week (with permission). It will be particularly powerful if you can release casualty data relating to your theme, such as how many people are killed and injured by that cause, but otherwise giving overall figures will still add weight to your campaign. It’s often most effective to break down statistics by day or week to make them easier to grasp, e.g. ‘five people are killed and 67 are seriously injured every day on UK roads’.
- Research on your theme – there is a lot of academic research from around the world showing how certain behaviours on roads are risky, which you can use in support of your messages. For example, if your message is to ‘switch off your phone when you get behind the wheel’, you could highlight research showing that talking on the phone makes you four times more likely to crash. Make sure you present research in a clear, easy-to-understand way, and reference the source. Make use of Brake’s road safety research library to help you.
- Data showing risky behaviour – you may be able to collect or obtain other data (aside from survey results) showing the extent of a particular road safety issue. For example, you may be able to observe and collect data on driver behaviour, such as the proportion of drivers seen using their mobile phone at the wheel or observed speeding (in checks by police). Or you might be able to obtain data on the number of offences drivers are caught committing in relation to different laws such as speeding or drink driving.
Explore the fact pages on Brake’s UK website for more ideas on useful background information you could collect. See the section below on press releases for guidance on releasing information to media.
You might also find it useful to present your facts and figures in a creative and accessible way, such as using an infographic that you can display and disseminate through communication channels. See section below on creative content.
Conveying the horror of road crashes
Alongside preparing messages explaining what people can do to improve road safety, and information to support that, your campaign will be more powerful if you convey the devastation that road crashes and casualties cause, and therefore the importance of preventing them.
You may notice on this website and in Brake’s materials we never use the term ‘road accident’. Road crashes are devastating and preventable events. We believe calling them road accidents gives the impression they are inevitable, chance mishaps. This can undermine work to improve road safety, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by casualties. Hence we recommend others do not to use the term road accidents, and instead use strong language that makes clear that road crashes and casualties are terrible and needless, and that we all have a part to play in preventing them.
Brake provides support to families who have been bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes, so we witness the suffering and trauma that results, and frequently refer to this in our campaigns. If you don’t work with road crash victims, then partnering with an organisation that does, or at least seeking their input on the impact of road crashes, could add power and weight to your campaign. You could also read Brake’s support literature to help you understand the effects of road crashes, or browse some of the case studies featured in press releases in our UK newsroom.
You could consider working with people who have been bereaved and injured in road crashes in the past, and giving them a chance to speak out about their experiences, if they want to be involved in this way. This might involve writing case studies on their experiences that you publicise online and through the media (see Brake’s 2013 Road Safety Week UK case studies as an example), or it might involve inviting them to speak at an event or through media interviews. See this interview with a bereaved family as an example. If you are using written case studies of road death and injury, take great care to check the facts are accurate, and you are not accusing anyone of illegal or risky behaviour that has not been proven in court.
Working with bereaved and injured road crash victims can be very powerful, although it’s vital to ensure the experience does not cause additional distress to people who have already suffered terribly. Working with bereaved and injured victims should only be done in a supportive and empathetic manner, with their express consent and utmost consideration to their needs and wishes. It’s essential to carefully explain in advance what would be involved and ensure they feel completely comfortable with that, and to support them throughout. It’s crucial to not put someone who has been bereaved or injured in a position where they may feel forced into something, or put on the spot. However, some bereaved and injured road crash victims passionately want to speak out about their experiences and help persuade people to be safer on roads. Brake recommends only approaching bereaved and injured victims to support your campaign at least two years after the crash, by which point extreme feelings will have hopefully subsided somewhat and people are more likely to feel able to tell their story.
Developing creative visual content
Your campaign will have more impact if you can develop some creative visual content to help get your messages across. Consider which communication channels are open to you (see below) to inform the types of materials you develop – there is no point spending lots of time developing something that you will then have difficulty ‘getting out there’. At the same time, some great images, adverts, film clips and infographics can be hugely helpful in getting media coverage and getting people’s attention.
You could develop creative content yourself, or you could enlist the help of schools, colleges, community groups, emergency services, employers or other partners in putting it together. It can be effective to issue creative content that comes from members of the public, such as children, families and other groups, conveying the main messages of the campaign. Plus the act of creating something to promote road safety is in itself a great way to engage people in the issue. You could consider creating some visuals well in advance of your Week for use through your campaign, and/or encouraging participants in your Week to create other materials during the Week, which you then work with them to disseminate.
Here are a few types of content you could consider:
- Photos – great photos can help to get your campaign messages across as well as conveying support and involvement in Road Safety Week. You can encourage participants in your Week to send their photos to you (for you to use and disseminate, with their permission) and post them directly on social media and their own websites. You could provide a specific brief to encourage people to engage creatively with the theme, like ‘send us a photo holding up a homemade ‘slow down’ banner’. Or you could set up some photos in advance of your Week that you can issue through your publicity campaign, such as working with a local school to take a photo of a group of children representing the number of children killed on roads each month/year, or taking some (anonymous) photos of drivers using mobile phones. You could also set up a ‘photo call’ for media to take their own pictures of an activity or event – see section below on media events. Make sure you have appropriate permissions before taking/using any photos and comply with any regulations, especially in relation to photos of children, for which parental permission is often required.
- Film clips – as well as encouraging participants in your Week to send you film clips of their activities, with permission for you to use and disseminate them (as above with photos), you could create some film clips in advance and set up filming opportunities for media. As with photos, you could create clips in advance that help to get your campaign messages across. These could include mini-interviews or ‘vox pops’ (short clips of someone talking) with drivers, children, families or other groups, giving their views and experiences. For example, you could ask children if they think local roads are safe or if they have ever been scared walking or cycling. Or you could ask drivers if they ever get distracted or use technology at the wheel. As above, make sure you have appropriate permissions. You could also set up filming/recording opportunities for media at an event during the Week – see section below on media events.
- Adverts, banners and graphics – these sorts of visual materials can be used online, in communications like bulletins,
and displayed at outdoor sites (such as banners on fences/railings, posters on noticeboards, and adverts on billboards or on bus backs, if you have access to such sites or have the budget for advertising space). They can be an immediate way to get your message across to lots of people, and get the word out that it’s Road Safety Week. If you’re creating your own visual materials like this, keep them stark and simple so people can take them in quickly – think ‘less is more’. Usually one simple message or statistic, alongside a photo or graphic to help convey this message, works best. See the posters in tools and resources for ideas.
- Infographics – If you’re trying to convey facts and figures in your campaign, infographics can be an effective way to do this in an accessible, engaging way. They are great for disseminating through social media, plus they can be used in the same way as adverts and banners as above. For examples of infographics, see the ‘other tools’ sections of the tools and resources pages). See an example of one of Brake's infographics, and a demonstration here of why infographics are effective.
You can also browse the tools and resources section of this site for ready-made visual content produced by Brake and other organisations, which you could use in your campaign.
Using a range of channels
When planning your campaign, consider what communications and publicity channels are open to you and will help you reach your target audience. It’s most effective to deliver a multi-channel campaign, where your messages are going out via lots of outlets, hopefully enabling you to reach more people and engage them in different ways. The sorts of channels you could use include: email bulletins, newsletters and magazines, websites, advertising, noticeboards, flyers, social media pages, and traditional media (i.e. TV, radio and press). The latter two channels are discussed in more detail below. Consider which channels are most likely to reach your target audience. For example, if your campaign is mainly geared at drivers and there are low levels of internet use in your country/locality, then making use of noticeboards, outdoor banners, adverts and traditional media is likely to be more effective than an online campaign.
You should firstly explore if you or your partners have established communications channels you can use (like a customer newsletter or website) that are read/accessed by members of the public, or particular groups like parents, drivers, children, employers or teachers. If not, consider if there are organisations you could approach who can help you communicate with these key groups, like teaching associations, parenting websites, community associations, big employers with vehicle fleets, universities and motor insurers. Often these sorts of organisations will be happy to help your campaign, because it means they are being associated with a positive community event, and benefiting their members, customers or contacts.
Whether you are working with partners or directly delivering your own communications, it’s a good idea to plan in advance how you will deliver activities through each channel both in the run-up to and during your Week. In many cases you can use the same channels to promote involvement in your Week in the run-up, and create a sense of excitement and build-up in advance, as well as to communicate your campaign messages during the Week itself. You may also be able to use the same channels to collect feedback from stakeholders on their participation in the Week and perceptions of the campaign, by distributing a short (online) form.
You should also aim to ensure your campaign messages and brand are consistent across communication channels (albeit tailored where needed to particular audiences), and that you (and your partners) remember to keep mentioning that this is part of Road Safety Week. This will help your campaign to come across strongly, and to build the Road Safety Week brand, which will aid engagement and publicity in future years. It can therefore be helpful, if communications are going out via a range of partners, to provide partners with ready-made content they can use, such as pre-written newsletter articles and images.
Using social media
Social media can be a great way to get your campaign messages across, as well as promoting involvement in your Week and showing how others are getting involved. If you already have established social media platforms, such as a Facebook page and twitter account, with a good number of followers, then consider how you can integrate your campaign messages into your usual social media activity and use these channels disseminate the materials and information you put together as part of your campaign.
If you’re not established on social media, consider setting up a Facebook page and twitter account for your Road Safety Week, which you can continue to use year-on-year to build up a community of people getting involved in the event and interested in supporting the campaign. You will need to work to build up a following in the run-up to and during your event, using the communications channels outlined above, and partners who may have an established social media presence. To help you do this, it’s important to have a short and memorable Facebook name and twitter account, and include these on all your communications and promotional materials.
It’s important (and valuable) to use social media as a way to engage people in your campaign, rather than as a one-way communications channel. For example, you can encourage followers and partners to share, re-tweet and like your campaign messages and visual content like photos, infographics and film clips, to promote the campaign to a wider audience. You can also invite people to give their views on the campaign topic and feedback on how the event went, and post their own pictures and film clips (see ideas above). You could also use social media to encourage and direct people through to other actions in support of the campaign, like making a road safety pledge (like Brake’s, which can be made online), or downloading and displaying a poster, or running an activity during the Week.
You need to make sure you’re responsive to interaction on social media, so thanking people who post great content, and answering queries about the event, so make sure you’ve factored in time for monitoring managing your social media platforms as well as planning posts and tweets in advance.
Consider setting up a hashtag for your event to help you track the extent of your reach and create a ‘mark’ for your event. Brake already uses #roadsafetyweek – you can either use this to join the international Road Safety Week community, or choose something else that’s not currently in use if you want to track tweets specific to your event.
You could also consider making use of tools like thunderclap, which is a way to get lots of people tweeting a particular message at a set time, or hootsuite, which helps you plan and schedule tweets and posts, and keep track of mentions by others.
Engaging national and regional media
A well run media campaign can allow you to promote road safety messages and publicise your Road Safety Week through TV, radio, press and online, potentially reaching a very large audience, for no cost except for your time.
To gain national media coverage (and assist with regional and specialist coverage) you usually need a strong ‘hook’, i.e. something you are releasing which is new and of social and political significance, as well as ensuring your campaign has a clear focus and messages as set out above. To provide a hook, you could carry out and release a survey, but this will need to be sufficiently large-scale to attract national media attention (in the UK it needs to be at least 1,000 people across the country, but this varies – call and check if you’re unsure). Alternatively you may be able to obtain and release statistics from government, such as on road casualties or driving offences.
See the section above on preparing background info for more suggestions on facts and figures you can use as a hook. It can work well to have a combination, such as survey results and casualty statistics, as long as they’re clearly focused on your theme and support your messages. See Brake’s Road Safety Week UK newsroom for examples of statistics in media campaigns. Whatever you’re releasing, you will need to ensure you have permission to use the statistics in this way and appropriately reference the source if you are obtaining them externally, and make sure they are not already published.
If statistics are already ‘out there’ in the public domain it’s unlikely media will be interested in them, so they won’t work as a hook. For this reason, you need to make sure you hold back whatever you’re releasing until the date of your campaign launch (usually the first day of your Week) – don’t put them out in your communications running up to the event, and do use an embargo on your press releases to stop them being published until the launch day (see section below on press releases).
You may find that regional and specialist media do not need as strong a hook, although it will still help if you have one, especially if it can be made relevant to their region or field – such as providing regional survey/casualty breakdowns, or explaining the relevance of the campaign to their target audience. With regional or specialist media, it may be sufficient to tell them about the campaign messages, and flag up activities taking place during Road Safety Week within their area or field (such as a school running a road safety march in their locality). In this way it is often easier to get regional and specialist media coverage for a Road Safety Week, although you still need to ensure you are showing how your campaign is relevant for them. See section below on writing press releases for different types of media.
As well as working out your hook, and being clear on your campaign messages, prior to preparing press releases you will also need to work out:
- If you need any other background evidence or information to support your campaign messages – this could be already-published data such as academic studies or casualty data, or it could be a statement from a relevant expert;
- If you are including any case studies, to add a human angle to the campaign, which often appeals to media. This could be a bereaved or injured road crash victim, who provides a quote and their story for inclusion in your press releases, and/or who is willing to speak to TV and radio about what happened to them. Alternatively it could be a community leader or spokesperson getting involved in the Week who can talk passionately about the importance of the campaign, like an emergency service professional who deals with the aftermath of road crashes, or a teacher campaigning for safer roads around their school because they are worried about children’s safety;
- Who your media spokespeople are. This should include someone (or a team of people) at your organisation or your partners who can talk coherently and passionately (on TV and radio) about your Road Safety Week, the campaign messages and persuade people to listen to these. It may also include case studies or experts like those suggested above. See section below on giving interviews;
- If you are running a media event, which you can use to provide filming, photo and interview opportunities to media. See section below on media events.
However you are delivering your media campaign, if you are working with partners, volunteers or external spokespeople, it’s important to ensure everyone is briefed well in advance and clear about the purpose and main messages of the campaign, and on board with that. If you have lots of spokespeople it’s a good idea to provide a written and verbal briefing on the messages and background information, and ensure everyone is able to confidently and competently deliver these and answer questions. See below for more on interviews.
You need to keep everyone informed in the run-up, ensuring everyone knows what their role is and what they need to do when. You should manage everyone’s expectations, and ensure they understand that the media is unpredictable. There’s never any guarantee that you will secure interviews, attendance at a media event and coverage (even if the media seem keen beforehand) – because other news stories could break on the day and get precedence. Conversely, the media may appear uninterested at first, and then you may have to deal with a deluge of last-minute queries and requests for information and interviews, so your spokespeople should be ready to do these at late notice in the days running up to and day of the launch.
When planning your media campaign, it’s important to ensure you have the time booked in (with staff, volunteers or an agency) to keep everyone informed in the run-up, engage journalists proactively (see section below), deal with incoming media enquiries, deliver interviews, and record these activities, as well as running any media event you have planned. A successful media campaign won’t just be about emailing out press releases – it can often be time-consuming, albeit worthwhile. Being able to take the time to speak to journalists on the phone also helps to build good relationships with media which will help you get more coverage for future Road Safety Weeks, and for road safety year-round.
Writing, issuing and selling in media releases
Writing great press releases and engaging journalists is vital to the successful delivery of a media campaign. Once you’ve decided on the matters outlined above, and gathered together the relevant information, start putting together your press release(s). It’s a good idea to do this at least one month before your Week so you can get the content approved with any partners/case studies, use the contents to brief your spokespeople, and then start issuing to media (under embargo) a week or two before.
Using an embargo is useful for maximising coverage for the launch of a pre-organised campaign where you are releasing statistics. It means you can tell media about the campaign in advance, but media are not supposed to cover the story until the date stated. This helps prevent some media being put off covering the story because others have already done so. Make sure your embargo date is really clear at the top of your release, ideally in bold and underlined, with the day of the week and calendar date, to try to avoid journalists ‘breaking’ your embargo. If issuing your release more than a week ahead, it’s a good idea to call journalists at the same time and make the embargo very clear. See below for more on calling media.
To compose a great press release, and make sure it stands out with journalists (who often get hundreds of releases each day), we recommend you:
- Put your press release into the body of an email, not as an attachment
- Write ‘PRESS RELEASE’ at the top, and ‘Embargoed until: 00.01 [launch day and date]’ in bold (or if you’re not using an embargo, or you’re sending pictures after the event, write ‘For immediate release and the date)
- Below this and at the bottom include a phone number and email address for media enquiries, ensuring that this number and inbox will be staffed appropriately in the week(s) running up to the launch date
- Give it a clear, self-explanatory and eye-catching title, in the style of a news headline, and put this in the subject bar and at the top of the release
- Use clear and simple language, short sentences and short paragraphs – journalists are often extremely busy so need to be able to take in what you write quickly
- Include the same messages and use the same language that you hope media will use – sometimes media will closely replicate your press release
- Get your news ‘hook’ (see above) across in your first sentence, and make your main message clear in your first paragraph
- State this campaign is for Road Safety Week, and who’s organising it, to build the event’s brand
- If you’re running a media event (see below), include a prominent invitation for media to attend, making clear exactly where it is, when it starts, and what the filming/photo/interview opportunities are
- After getting across your hook and main messages, include any background information you have gathered and make sure it hangs together – you’re trying to build a coherent case for action
- Include quotes from your spokespeople (no more than one per organisation, and usually no more than three in total). These should each demonstrate distinct perspectives on the campaign, helping to convey its importance and get the main messages across with passion and conviction
- Include any case studies – brief summaries of their stories or situations, and quotes from them, helping to demonstrate the importance of the campaign and provide a human side, alongside your facts and figures
- Link to or attach relevant campaign images you have prepared in advance such as photos or graphics.
Compile an email list of relevant media in advance and ensure your release is going to the right people. You might be able to buy a media database for this purpose, or research contacts online and by phone. As you call media to ‘sell in’ your campaign (see below) you will probably acquire more contacts to add to your database and send the release to when it’s reissued. Try to ensure you have relevant media contacts, especially transport correspondents, and both news and features editors and reporters, on the list. Also make sure that you’re covering radio, TV and press and online media, at national and regional/local level.
Send your press release roughly one week in advance of your event and re-send again once or twice, including on the day before the embargo date. If you have media contacts that work on features or weekly publications, it’s a good idea to make them aware of the campaign at least two-three weeks in advance, which you can do through a phone call even if your press release isn’t ready. If you are running a media event on the day of the campaign launch, you should also re-send your release(s) as soon as possible after with one or two good photos attached (ensuring you have permission from people in them).
If your campaign is national, to help you gain coverage at regional/local level, consider writing regional press releases that demonstrate how the campaign relates to each region, or what’s happening in Road Safety Week in that region. For example, for Road Safety Week UK, Brake creates 12 regional press releases, one for each main media region (each region that’s covered by a different regional TV station and newspaper, as well as having lots of local radio stations and newspapers in it). In each of these, we include a regional breakdown of statistics, and where possible a case study from that region and examples of Road Safety Week activities. We also run regional media events, as close as possible to where the main regional media is based. See Brake’s regional Road Safety Week releases. If you prepare regional releases, take care preparing your email lists to ensure each release only goes to media in that region.
You could also consider writing and sending press releases for specialist media, to help you reach specific audiences. For example, if your campaign is especially relevant to families, you could issue a release to parenting magazines and websites, making clear what parents can do and why it’s important to them.
At the same time as issuing press releases, call journalists to ‘sell in’ your campaign. Prioritise those who can potentially give you the widest coverage (e.g. national and big regional media with large numbers of viewers/listeners/readers) and who you think are especially likely to be interested (because you’ve included content that’s very relevant to them, like a case study in their region, or powerful national survey results, or it’s a topic you know they have covered before and are interested in). If you have any established relationships with journalists, use them.
You usually need to speak to someone in ‘forward planning’ for TV and radio, or someone in news for any media, although it’s also a good idea to try to find out if there’s a correspondent who has a particular focus on transport and road safety stories, such as a transport correspondent. You could additionally talk to features desks on newspapers about the possibility of running a feature if you have case studies available, ideally a few weeks in advance. Plus call picture desks on newspapers if you have photos or want to invite photographers to a media event. The best contact will vary between different media and at different times, so if you’re unsure who to speak to, explain what you’re calling about and ask who to talk to.
Our advice for engaging journalists effectively over the phone:
- Start with a bang. Make it sound interesting and new from the very start of the call. Don’t start by asking if they got your press release – you need to catch their attention. Start by highlighting the main news hook and messages, and explain concisely and persuasively why the campaign is important and relevant to them. For example, start with ‘I want to tell you about a new campaign we’re launching on X date, calling on drivers to slow down to 20mph in towns. We’re releasing a survey of 3,000 children showing children are behind this campaign and worried drivers are going too fast in their town.’
- Make clear the embargo. Journalists need to know when the story is for, and you want to try to avoid journalists breaking your embargo. For example, say ‘The campaign kicks off on X date, so the info I’ve sent you is under embargo until then, but in the meantime I can provide information and help you set up any interviews or filming.’
- Refer back. If you have an existing relationship with them, or know they have shown an interest in or covered this topic before, mention it, such as by saying ‘We previously worked with you on X story, so I thought you might be interested to hear about our new campaign.’
- Be confident and convincing. If you sound convinced this is a strong story they should cover, it will help convince them. Remember your campaign is important – it’s about stopping people being killed and seriously injured – and make it sound important. If you say ‘I’m not sure if this is of interest, but thought I’d check’ it will probably make them doubt if the story is strong enough. Better to say ‘We’re launching a much-needed campaign to help stop people being killed and hurt on our roads, which I think will be of interest to you.’
- Have your facts to hand. Have the press release to hand and familiarise yourself with the background info before making the call. Consider what questions they may ask and be able to answer them confidently and coherently.
- Be willing to help. Journalists often need to gather together a range of components in advance to cover a story – information, quotes, photos (for press), interviews (for TV and radio) and case studies and filming (for TV). Make clear to them what you can offer and set up for them, such as interviews with your spokespeople and your case studies, tailoring this according to whether you’re speaking to TV, radio or press. If they ask for help preparing anything else, try to help, checking when they need things set up by, and doing your best to meet their deadlines. Make it clear and apologise if you can’t help. The more helpful you are, the more likely they are to go big on the story, and the more likely they will want to work with you again.
- Be persistent, but don’t be a pain. Media offices are often hectic places and many journalists deal with hundreds of calls and emails each day. You may not get to speak to the right person first time – although you may end up having a useful conversation with someone different, so if someone else picks up the phone tell them why you’re calling. Keep calling if you’re not getting to speak to someone relevant. And even if you have had a good conversation, call back again a day or two later to remind them of the story and check if they have everything they need to cover it. Bear in mind that journalists often have limited time, so you need to balance getting the main points across to them, while not annoying them by keeping them on the phone ages.
- Follow up. It’s a good idea to follow up each successful call with a short email summing up the main points of the story, focusing on the things most relevant to them or that they showed interest in, reminding of the things you can offer/arrange, and pasting the press release in below. Include a suitable contact number (mobile is best) so they can get in touch quickly when they need to.
- Say thanks. If your story is featured, a brief call or email to thank them can be great for building relationships and increasing the chances of them covering more road safety stories.
As well as writing and selling in national, regional and specialist media releases, you could provide a template press release for participants in your Road Safety Week to fill in and send to their local media. It’s generally best to not include embargoed information in these (i.e. statistics/other content you are releasing on the day), as it can be leaked early. Include a summary of what the campaign is about, what Road Safety Week is, plus a quote from your main spokesperson, and then leave spaces for the participant to fill in what they are doing and a quote. See an example template release Brake used for Road Safety Week UK.
Organising media events
It can be really helpful to run a media ‘launch event’ to launch your campaign, to which you can invite media to film, photograph and conduct interviews. It means media can gather a range of content quickly in one place. To be done well, larger and more complex events often require a lot of time to organise, so it’s a good idea to start your preparation a few months in advance.
To run an event, you usually need to work with partners, for example to provide a venue, run activities, take part in photos and activities, and speak out in support of the campaign through interviews, speeches or vox pops. Involving multiple partners successfully takes a lot of planning, time, and communication. It’s a good idea to give someone clear responsibility for liaising with partners in the run-up, and ensure they have plenty of time allocated for this, so they can make sure everyone is kept informed, knows what their role is, and is prepared, happy and comfortable. Consider if some participants may need additional support or information in the run-up and on the day. For example, if you’re inviting a school along with a group of students to take part in a photocall, you should ensure they have appropriate permission from parents for their child to be filmed or photographed, and they are clear about what to expect on the day and will have enough teachers present to safely supervise the children. If you are involving a bereaved volunteer who is speaking out about their experience, you need to ensure they feel comfortable in advance with what to expect at the event, and that there is someone on the day to chat to them and make sure they are okay.
You will need to ensure your event includes at least something to photograph (a ‘photocall’) and people to interview, plus ideally some activities that can be filmed or recorded. You should also carefully consider location – you’re more likely to get media along if it’s relatively close to their offices. Outdoor sites often work well and look good in photos/filming, although you may need an indoor venue as backup in case of bad weather. You will need to ensure you have plenty of space for your activities and are sure these activities can be carried out safely. So although it may be tempting to have a road as a backdrop, you should not choose a site where there will be any risk from traffic. This is especially important if you have children involved, which means a safe and secure space is paramount. As well as considering safety when choosing your venue, you should also conduct a risk assessment well in advance of running your event.
We recommend running your media event on the morning of your campaign launch (i.e. the date of your embargo), so you are providing content for lunchtime and evening news programmes, evening newspapers, and radio programmes for the rest of the day. Bear in mind that a launch at that time doesn’t suit everyone (it’s difficult to find a time that does!) because breakfast time programmes and morning newspapers will have already gone out (unless they cover it the next day, but most will probably want to cover it on the morning). It helps therefore if you can provide content for these media outside your event – such as sending advance photos to morning papers and offering studio interviews for breakfast programmes, which your spokespeople may be able to do before going to the event.
Your media event needs to offer content that is relevant to and helps demonstrate your campaign messages, and is visually interesting and powerful, through filming, photos, interviews and vox-pops (short interview clips). Here are some ideas:
- Set up a photocall that demonstrates the number of road deaths and injuries in a particular area, among a particular group, or caused by a particular type of risk-taking. For example, you could have a certain number of children, wearing numbered tshirts, or standing in a heart shape or the shape of the number, showing the number of children killed each month on the country’s roads.
- Set up a photocall showing the range of support behind your campaign, such as by getting representatives from different organisations, or different types of road user (e.g. cyclists, walkers, families, older people, business people, teenagers, motorcyclists, horseriders) to hold up placards with your campaign message (and chant this message if you have a TV crew present).
- Run an exercise where people pace out stopping distances at different speeds in front of parked vehicles, holding up a sign showing that speed, to demonstrate how slowing down gives you a much better chance of stopping in time to avoid hitting someone.
- Run a demonstration of the power of distractions, by getting drivers to use a driving simulator or driving video game, and asking them quiz questions down a mobile phone, or handing them fake ‘text messages’ and asking them to read and reply to the question in them.
- Map out the blind spots around a truck by chalking them on the ground, and getting people to stand/pose with bikes in these spaces, to show the importance of people not getting into these spaces, and of drivers of large vehicles carefully checking around them.
- Offer TV and radio the chance to do vox pops with a group, such as children, parents, or older people, giving their views on the subject of your campaign and the situation in their local area, with a big campaign banner behind them.
Read about Brake’s media events for Road Safety Week 2013 and 2012, and read about more run by other Road Safety Week organisers on our map.
As well as these sorts of activities, you may be able to arrange dignitaries, celebrities or experts to attend, to back and launch the campaign. They can do this by giving short speeches (but keep them brief – this should be a lively media event, not a long lecture) and media interviews, and taking part in photos and activities. This can be effective in gaining media attention and adding weight to your campaign, but like working with partners it requires plenty of good communication in the run-up, including ensuring these guests understand the campaign and are ‘on message’. It can be damaging to invite a guest speaker along who inadvertently undermines your campaign because they don’t understand it. If you’re not confident a potential guest will competently speak in support of the campaign, it may be best to not involve them, however famous they are! It’s also important to check the credentials of guest supporters. You need someone people will listen to and respect, and someone who ‘does as they say’ – you don’t want to get a celebrity to support a ‘slow down’ campaign, who gets caught speeding the next week.
It’s a good idea to ‘brand’ your event, to help it look both professional and colourful and interesting, and to ensure that the coverage generated includes your main message, mentions Road Safety Week, and attributes the activities to you and your partners. If you have sponsors for your Week, including their branding on launch materials is a great benefit you can offer in return for their funding. Make your event materials bright, colourful and simple, ensuring writing is big so it will be legible in photos. Materials you can use to brand your event might include the following, all of which could bear your main campaign message/strapline and yours’/partners’/sponsors’ logos:
- tshirts worn by activity/photocall participants and spokespeople
- a big banner displayed in the background, or held up in the photocall
- placards or signs held up by participants, especially in a way that looks like a campaign event or protest, or like they are endorsing the campaign
- posters to display behind people giving interviews
- 'props’ for use in the activities
You could also make use of Road Safety Week branded resources in the tools and resources section of this site.
The final step to organising a great media event is to get the media along. Make sure your event is well publicised to media, especially media very local to the launch, by promoting it prominently in your press releases (with all details present and correct) and flagging it up on the phone to media, encouraging news desks, forward planning and picture desks to put it in their diaries.
You need to bear in mind there are no guarantees with media attendance, and make participants aware of this. For this reason, and for the reason of collecting photos and clips for your own use and dissemination, it’s a good idea to book your own photographer and/or do filming yourself if you can. It means your participants will not have wasted their time if media attendance is poor, and you (and they) will have some great pictures and clips to use in communications afterwards.
On the day, make sure your event is well coordinated. You need a clear lead organising activities and setting up the photocall, showing people what to do when, and keeping to schedule. You don’t want an event that’s publicised as lasting one hour (a good length of time for a media event) going on for three hours – media are often too busy to stay for that long. You also need someone to be given responsibility for meeting and greeting media and explaining to them what’s happening and who they can talk to. If you have a large, complex event you may need a team of people to coordinate activities and media.
Giving media interviews
Whether you’re running a media event or not, having spokespeople who are well-prepared and able to deliver powerful interviews is crucial for effectively communicating your campaign via TV or radio. Make it clear in your press releases who you have available for interview, and who media should call to set this up. Even if you have several spokespeople, it’s a good idea to have one person (or a small team) selling in to media and handling incoming media enquiries, who at the same time offer interviews and set these up with relevant spokespeople.
Remember that TV and radio interviews are not just a chance to talk about your campaign and promote Road Safety Week, they are a chance to directly influence viewers’/listeners’ attitudes on road safety and their behaviour on roads. You need to ensure your spokespeople are well-versed on the campaign messages, and able to put forward a coherent and passionate argument on this in a high-pressure situation. If your spokespeople haven’t done media interviews before, or even if they have but are new to speaking out on this campaign, spending some time on preparation and practice will be hugely helpful. Here are some tips for your preparing for interviews:
- Watch and listen to other media interviews, paying attention to the sorts of questions asked and how interviewees respond, and thinking about what makes a good interview.
- Be clear about your headline messages. Identify the top three points and practise how you will say these. Remember your main job is to get these across effectively.
- Have statistics prepared, including any statistics being released on the day, general statistics on road death and injury, and other facts and figures to back up the campaign. You may not get all of these into an interview (and it’s better not to bring in too many numbers), but it’s useful to know them and be able to use them if you need to.
- Practise saying your main messages and stats in a powerful but straight-forward, easy to say and easy to understand way. Statistics are the easiest thing to get wrong in an interview. If you’re having trouble practising saying a statistic because it’s too complicated it may be that you need to come up with a simpler fact to back up your point.
- Consider what you’ll be asked and how to respond, especially how you will include your main messages in answers to common questions and respond to possible trickier questions. Consider general questions (how interviews often start) like ‘what’s this campaign all about?’ and as well as specific ones querying your campaigns messages like ‘why do you think speeding is a problem?’ or ‘what can people do to be safer when driving?’.
- Expect the unexpected! Bear in mind that an interviewer could divert into talking about a completely different aspect of road safety, so make sure you have a good overview of the topic, and are able to bring things back to the focus of the campaign.
- Consider your appearance if going on TV. Wearing something reasonably smart, and that’s colourful but not overly distracting or patterned, looks good on TV. You want to look credible, but also accessible and friendly, and you don’t want your clothes to distract from what you’re saying.
- Be clear about the type of interview. When asked to do an interview, check if it’s TV or radio, pre-recorded or live, and in a studio or outdoors, so you know what to expect. If you are inexperienced, it is better to do a pre-recorded interview rather than live if you have the option. These are recorded in advance so if you make a mistake, you can ask to do it again. If you are doing an interview outdoors, make sure your voice is not drowned out by passing traffic or other noise, and make sure you’re stood in a safe place.
Our tips on language, tone and style in delivering media interviews:
- Use simple language, short sentences, and powerful terminology – e.g. ‘Too many people are killed and injured on our roads. Each death and injury is a terrible tragedy that causes pain and devastation. We can work together to stop them.’ Do not use jargon or long, complex sentences.
- Refer to the importance of road safety to families and communities – your campaign is about protecting people, preventing families from suffering, and making streets safer for everyone.
- Use ‘road crashes’, not car crashes (crashes on roads involve all sorts of vehicles) or road accidents (road deaths are not accidents – this word is therefore offensive to many road crash victims and undermines road safety campaigning).
- When relaying messages about what members of the public can do, make sure your language is inclusive and non-alienating, e.g. saying ‘we all need to…’ rather than ‘they should’ when talking about drivers making a difference.
- Phrases like ‘we appeal to everyone/all drivers/young people to…’ can work well in persuading people this campaign is aimed at them, as can empowering statements like ‘all drivers can play a part in preventing tragedies, by committing to slowing down/never using a phone while driving.’
- When giving statistics, do so in a way that is meaningful and accessible to the average person – breaking stats down to every day or week is easier to grasp than talking about bigger annual statistics. It can also be helpful to give analogies, like saying ‘that’s a class full of children’ or ‘it’s the equivalent to a plane full of people crashing once a month and everyone on board being killed’.
- Remember that you are trying to catch people’s attention and speak to them directly when they may be doing or thinking about other things.
- Use examples people can relate to, such as ‘most parents will know what it’s like to worry about their child walking or cycling to school’.
- Use a serious, concerned tone even if your interviewer isn’t taking it seriously. It is important you don’t find yourself talking like the presenter if his/her tone is inappropriately jovial or mocking. Some interviews may benefit from a livelier and more enthusiastic tone, but it’s crucial to sound appropriately serious when talking about deaths and injuries, and convey a sense you are an expert on this topic.
- Talk at a calm pace, but use emphasis to sound passionate. If you talk too quickly, you may lose track of what you’re saying and sound muddled. It will also be hard for the listener/viewer to follow you. At the same time, going too slowly can make you sound patronising. And if you come as across monotone and un-enthusiastic, people will get bored and stop listening. Speak as though you’re explaining something new, which you’re enthusiastic about, to someone of reasonable intelligence in a normal conversation. And if your interviewer is taking a strong line or interrogating you, make sure you stay calm and professional.
- Breathe in between each sentence – it helps give you time to think and can lend emphasis to what you’re saying, and helps you avoid saying ‘er’ or ‘um’.
- Make your answers not too short, not too long. If you give very short answers, the interviewer will get bored of you and wrap up the interview prematurely, and it will sound like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you talk for ages, you will annoy the interviewer and they will probably interrupt you.
- Be confident and complete in your answers, making sure you aim to get across everything you need to. This is your opportunity to speak, so make sure you use it wisely and say as much as possible, without going on and on.
Monitoring your impact
It’s a good idea to monitor the level of coverage you receive in national, regional and local media. This will be useful for planning future events. It will also help you to demonstrate to any current and potential sponsors the coverage they receive for their funding.
You can do this firstly by recording what media attend your event if you run one, and what interviews your spokespeople do. You may also be able to directly check newspapers and websites and record coverage achieved, but take care to comply with any regulations in your country on newspaper licensing, which may prohibit copying and saving newspaper cuttings. If you have the funding, it can be easier and more effective to use a media monitoring agency to check coverage.
More info and advice…
- Browse our map of Road Safety Weeks for examples of what others have done
- Browse Brake’s Road Safety Week UK newsroom for examples of what Brake has done
- Read guidance on other aspects of running a Road Safety Week for governments & NGOs, companies, schools & colleges, and local groups and agencies
- Browse tools and resources
- Contact us to tell us about your Road Safety Week